person outlining on a yellow pad

If you have been averse to creating an outline, let’s be clear. You do not have to sit down and create a document with those numerals and letters.

An outline can take many forms. It’s a matter of organizing your thoughts and getting them down before you begin to write. And it’s easy to do. Most writers use an informal method of outlining. Here are five simple steps to help you get started.

1. Start with your thesis

Every piece of writing you craft has a point. If you cannot reduce that point to a single statement, then you are not ready to write. You will need to develop a thesis statement because it will drive the introduction and conclusion of your piece. To do this, pose questions to yourself and then provide the answers. Ultimately, you will get to the point.

Sylvia Giltner, a content editor at ResumesCentre, states, “Even when I know I have a great trending topic for a post, I never begin without a thesis statement. If I can’t identify the whole point of the piece, there’s no reason to write it.”

2. Dissect the thesis

Suppose your thesis statement is that content writers must incorporate new trends in technology as they craft their pieces. Now it’s time to break that thesis apart.

Begin by doing some research on those newest trends. Then, ask yourself some questions. Which of these new technologies are the most popular? Which of them seem to be most feasible for non-techie content writers?

Jessica Fender, an editor at OnlineWritersRating, puts it like this: “Research is a key piece of any content I write. I may think that I have a good handle on a thesis, but I always find new perspectives from that research – perspectives that are going to influence what I ultimately include in the piece.”

3. Make a list

You are now ready to determine exactly what points you will include and in what order you will place them. They will make up the body portion of your piece.

This step includes not just listing the points or arguments but also the examples you will use to make that point. Choosing the examples is an important step if your points are going to be credible. Your research should have provided good ones.

4. Break down the points

For each point or argument, you will want to now list the details that will be included. Think of them as the details you would include in a paragraph to support a topic sentence. Whether these details are textual or visual doesn’t matter. Just be certain they clearly support the point.

James Daily, a content writer at FlashEssay, reinforces this: “Content comes in many forms. There may be paragraphs, bulleted lists, graphs, charts, or even videos to support the points being made. But one thing is clear. Organizing them into the right places is critical to the flow of any writing piece.”

5. Be mindful of your word count

Depending on the word count parameters, you may need to cut or add some content. The only way you can determine this is to actually write the piece. And then make the adjustments you need. Even if you don’t write your intro and conclusion until the end, plan on about 300 words for them.

Amanda Sparks, content writer for EssaySupply, states she often faces this issue: “One of the things I always do is hold back a point or two that I could make when writing a piece. If I am short on word count, I have something in my pocket to add. If I have too much, I can go back and shorten my verbiage or remove the least important point. I don’t worry too much about word count until I have the body written. Then, the adjustments can be made.”

The Advantages of outlining

The biggest advantage to developing some type of outline is so you do not get off track. Your attention is focused solely on the points you will be covering. And with that focus, you will actually write faster.

There are a couple of other benefits too:

  • Looking over your outline will let you see if there is a logical flow to the order in which you are making your points. It’s much easier to check your flow through an outline than the finished piece.
  • Some points you are making will be more important than others and will require more detail. An outline will tell you if you have given the right emphasis based upon importance.

And remember – it doesn’t matter how you format your outline. It matters that you have one.

The post Outline Your Content in 5 Simple Steps appeared first on Upwork Blog.

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